Norfolk hospitals continue to miss key cancer treatment targets

The Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital.

The Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital. - Credit: PA

More than one in five cancer patients are having to wait longer for treatment as Norfolk hospitals continue to miss a key target.

All three of our region's health trusts have put special plans in place to tackle the issue – with the statistics reflecting the national picture as figures in England are at their worst since records began in 2009.

Between April and June this year, 21.5pc of people treated at Norfolk and Norwich University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust (N&N), Queen Elizabeth Hospital King's Lynn NHS Foundation Trust (QEH), and James Paget University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust (JPH) combined have had to wait longer than 62 days for treatment from their first GP referral for suspected cancer.

That is a rise from the previous three months when 20.8pc of patients missed the target.

Cancer charities said they understood the patients' anxiety about waiting for treatment and called for 'urgent action' as 'thousands of patients were being failed'.


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A spokesman for the N&N said nearly 2,000 suspected cancer referrals are made to the hospital every month and added the trust hoped to hit the target in October.

The 62-day target is one of several cancer targets hospitals are expected to achieve. The N&N, JPH and QEH are hitting the other targets.

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Cancer targets were introduced to ensure swift diagnosis and access to treatment – but it is more than a year since the NHS nationally achieved the 62-day objective.

Nikki Morris, deputy chief executive of Norfolk cancer charity The Big C, said: 'We understand the anxiety individuals and families experience when waiting for treatment and that is why we remain committed to providing support and information across Norfolk and Waveney.'

Emma Greenwood, head of policy at Cancer Research UK, said: 'England's cancer survival already lags behind comparable countries and will only get worse if the target continues to be breached.'

A spokesman for the N&N said the trust was taking a number of steps to reach its targets. These include recruitment, reviews of treatment pathways, and working with public health analysts to ensure capacity in out-patients departments, theatres, radiology, and endoscopy can meet current and future demands.

'Patients now have a greater range of treatment options available to ensure the best possible outcomes – however, to ensure the best possible treatment often requires additional investigations to be undertaken,' the spokesman said.

Sue Watkinson, director of operations at the JPH, blamed increased demand and said the trust had achieved all cancer standards in June. She said: 'An action plan is in place to manage this demand.'

At the QEH, doctors are working with the N&N and Addenbrooke's Hospital, Cambridge, to improve waiting times.

Patricia Dunmore, interim chief operating officer of the QEH, said the trust has implemented a 'rapid improvement plan'.

Have you waited long for your cancer treatment? Email nicholas.carding@archant.co.uk

Comment – Page 26

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